Puppy Clicker Training Step-By-Step

gray cat and black and white dog
By Pet Expert Team
Updated: 6/4/20242-4 minutes
A dog owner snuggling her puppy

Using a clicker to train a puppy can be a satisfying experience for you both, as well as a way to better support your puppy’s training success. So, what is clicker training for puppies, and how does clicker training work?

What is Clicker Training?

Clicker training is a method of reinforcement training that makes rewarding your puppy more meaningful by pairing the reward with the added communication of a clicker. In short, the answer to the question of what is puppy clicker training is that this is a way to give your puppy clearer signals about the behaviors you want them to learn so that they can learn them more successfully.

The science of animal learning says that animals are more likely to repeat behaviors that are rewarded. So instead of correcting your puppy for behaviors you don’t want them to do, using a training clicker for puppies helps you reward your puppy for the specific behaviors you do want. It’s a way to clearly communicate and reinforce these behaviors, which can have a tremendous impact on both the success of your puppy training, and your puppy’s happiness.

A clicker is a simple, handheld device that allows you to “click” at the precise time your puppy gets a behavior right, which helps them understand exactly what behavior you’re rewarding. Your puppy doesn’t have to guess what they did right—by clicking to mark the exact moment of correct behavior, you let them know exactly what behavior to repeat. For example, if you are clicker training puppy to lie down, you would click the puppy clicker at the exact moment your puppy’s tummy touches the ground. 

When Should You Start Clicker Training Your Puppy?

You may wonder at what age can you start clicker training a puppy. Experts recommend starting clicker training during puppyhood. So, you can start your puppy clicker training schedule now. 

Once you decide when to start clicker training a puppy, the first step will be to establish an association between the sound of a click and a reward your dog enjoys. This can be a favorite training treat or playing with a treasured toy. The key is that the clicking sound and the associated reward become paired in your puppy’s mind. Once this link is established, it will be easier for you to help your puppy learn new behaviors.

Benefits of Clicker Training a Puppy 

By using a clicker to click at the exact moment your puppy performs the behavior you want, then rewarding them, you can help your puppy gain a clear understanding of exactly what the desired behavior is. For example, if you’re training your puppy to sit, clicking at the precise moment their behind touches the floor (and not sooner or later) helps them understand that this is what you’re asking for when you say, “Sit.” 

Is Clicker Training Good for Puppies?

Clicker training can be beneficial for puppies for several reasons: 

  • One of the basics of clicker training is that puppies earn rewards for the right behaviors. And the clicker is the signal of the reward to come. This will help to keep your puppy motivated and engaged.  
  • Because the clicker helps you communicate exactly what you want your puppy to do, learning becomes easier and more enjoyable for you both.  
  • Clicker training can help improve your communication with your puppy. It also strengthens your puppy’s confidence and trust as they earn the rewards of successfully following your directions.  
  • Clicker-trained puppies tend to love to learn and training. Training becomes like a game that puppies enjoy.

Clicker Training vs. Treat Training Your Puppy

Because clicker training uses treats or another form of reward, it’s not really a question of one type of training versus another. Clicker training adds the advantage of a clear communication tool to treat training, to help support your puppy’s understanding and success.

Does clicker training work for puppies? Because of its precision, combined with the reinforcement of a reward, clicker training does work for puppies. It makes communication more effective, strengthens your connection with your puppy and makes training more enjoyable. 

How to Train Your Puppy With a Clicker 

Because clicker training reinforces positive behaviors, it can be helpful for more than teaching your puppy tricks. Once you and your puppy have mastered the basics of how to do clicker training, you can try clicker crate training or consider how to use a clicker to potty train a puppy. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to start clicker training a puppy:  

  1. Choose a quiet location for training without distractions. This is important so your puppy can focus on you and the clicker.  
  2. Introduce the clicker. Grab a few of your puppy’s favorite small treats (or their kibble), and your clicker. Holding the clicker at your side, click it, then give your puppy a treat immediately. Repeat this process a few times and watch your puppy’s reaction for signs that they are making the connection between the clicker and the treat. The goal is for them to expect this reward when they hear the clicker.  
  3. Start using the clicker for basic commands. Work with simple commands such as “sit” or “down.” Click the clicker at the exact moment they perform the behavior, then give them a treat within three seconds after the click. It’s essential that they connect earning the click with receiving the reward.  
  4. Practice on a consistent basis. Clicker training requires regular and consistent practice. This will increase your puppy’s understanding, and result in faster learning.  
  5. Be generous with praise. Your puppy wants to make you happy and earn your affection. Encouragement from you will not help them learn but will also increase their confidence and joy in training.  
  6. Keep training sessions short. To avoid overtaxing your puppy and to keep training fun, limit your sessions to around 10 to 15 minutes in length. If your puppy is really enjoying training, you can do more than one session a day. 

Puppy Clicker Training Tips

Now that you’ve learned the basics of puppy clicker training, here are some additional training tips on how to use a clicker with a puppy:

  1. To make the two-part clicker sound, push and release the springy end of the clicker. Then give your puppy a treat immediately. Keep the treats small, and make sure your puppy likes them.  
  2. Click immediately when your puppy performs the behavior you want, not after. Then give them the treat within three seconds. 
  3. Only click once. If you’re especially happy with a behavior, you can increase the number of treats, but not the number of clicks. 
  4. Help your puppy avoid bad behaviors by clicking for good ones. For example, click when they go potty in the yard (not the house), or when they refrain from jumping on visitors. Because clicker training is focused on reinforcing positive behaviors, situations such as using clicker training for puppy biting or other negative behaviors will involve focusing on positive behaviors instead.  
  5. Clickers are positive reinforcement training tools, so they should not be used for scolding or correcting your puppy. If you are trying to show your puppy that a behavior is not acceptable, a clicker is the wrong tool to use.  
  6. More important, clicker training should be fun! So, keep your training sessions short, and full of praise and encouragement.

As you can see, clicker training can be a wonderful way to enrich puppy learning, and to help you and your puppy develop better communication and a stronger bond. Whether you decide to try clicker training with your puppy on your own or through a qualified trainer, it should be an experience that you will both find enjoyable and satisfying.

For more expert tips on getting a puppy, explore our other getting a puppy articles

Related articles

Puppy holding paw up to person with outstretched hand
Knowing when to start training a puppy can help strengthen the bond between dog and owner. Learn when to start and puppy training schedules by age from Purina experts.
Woman kisses puppy while holding it in her lap
A pet owner reaches towards their puppy’s crate. The puppy stands inside the crate, which is located next to a basket of toys
MyPurina App - woman with dog

Be Rewarded for Your Purina Purchases

Earn and redeem points for Purina products with myPurina app.